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Boost Your Immune System by Practising Mindfulness

It’s easy to feel the physical effects of stress when life throws you off course. Stress can lead to restlessness, lack of sleep, poor diet and anxiety, all of which can have serious implications on your health. In fact, stress can have a number of negative impacts directly on the immune system.

Stress caused by brief pressures (such as exams or looming deadlines) can suppress the part of the immune system responsible for killing and breaking down invading bacteria or viruses, while chronic stress (such as workplace or family pressures) can actually suppress the entire immune system. This increases the cortisol levels in your system, which makes you not only more susceptible to becoming sick, but also more likely to make others sick.

Practising mindfulness is a simple and effective way to combat stress. Being more mindful has a number of positive effects directly on the immune system, including reducing inflammation symptoms and stress hormones, and has been shown to improve activity in the areas of the brain responsible for coordinating the immune system.

Incorporating mindfulness into your lifestyle can also help to minimize the occurrence, length, and severity of the common cold or the flu. The best part is that mindfulness can be easily included in your daily routine by simply paying attention to your breathing, tuning into your body’s physical sensations, and practising mindful meditation.

To help me manage stress better and find my inner balance, I also rely on a few easy-to-find natural health products, including:

Valerian: Commonly used for its anxiety-reducing and sedative effects, this root is available as an herbal tea and supplement.

Omega-3s: Supplementing with fish oil, rich in omega-3s, has been shown to reduce stress symptoms.

Probiotics: A large volume of evidence supports the view that the immune system is a key communication pathway between the gut and brain, which plays an important role in stress-related behaviours. The microbial content of the gut plays a key role in immune development.

5 Tips to Win Against Workplace Stress

Stressed at work? You’re not alone. We conducted a survey that found that 67 per cent of Canadians agree that their work causes them stress, and that this stress negatively impacts their lives.

Beat stress by incorporating these five tips to bring balance back into your life.

Punch up productivity.

Omega-3s, found in foods such as fish and nuts, have been shown to improve our learning and memory. Research also shows that omega-3s can help protect us from mood decline, allowing us to stay positive through the day’s most difficult tasks.

Stay calm.

Did you know that not all bacteria are bad for you? Our gut is home to billions of bacteria that play a role in our intestinal and mental health. Supplementing with probiotics has been shown to help reduce anxiety and stress. Consider adding a supplement into your daily routine or eating more probiotic-rich foods, such as kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut.

Get creative.

“Deskercise” is using your own body weight to add more exercise to your day. Find a few minutes each day to do a few squats or desk dips, and add more movement throughout the day by getting up and going for a walk. Instead of sitting, encourage everyone to stand in your next meeting or swap out your chair for an exercise ball.

Practise mindfulness.

Mindfulness helps increase your general awareness while decreasing stress — and all it takes is a few moments of peace. Set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to stop and take three deep breaths every hour. When you get home, end the day by writing down three things you’re grateful for.

Eating for energy.

Put down the junk food. Snack on smart carbs instead, like beans and legumes that are high in fibre. Eating more complex carbs can reduce stress hormones, improve mental performance and enhance your mood. They also slow and stabilize glucose absorption, reducing your risk of blood sugar spikes and crashes.

Michelle W. Book
In-house holistic nutritionist and spokesperson for the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA), she focuses on living life and raising a family focused on holistic health and wellness.